Athens Review, Athens, Texas

October 2, 2013

Staples speaks

Ag Commissioner keynotes water seminar

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

Athens — Conserving the water of Texas’ most populated river was the focus of a seminar at the Cain Center on Wednesday, presented by the Texas AgriLIfe Extension and Trinity Waters.

The meeting attracted more than 100 participants to hear a variety of speakers and discuss watershed management strategies and the associated benefits for landowners.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples was the final speaker at the 7-hour seminar. Staples said landowners need to show urban Texans the good stewardship practices that are stretching the state’s water supply.

According to Staples, a press conference in Austin earlier this year dubbed agriculture as the state’s leading “water hog.”

“But what they didn’t have as a part of their presentation is that agricultural water use has declined by 42 percent from 1974 to 2010,” Staples said.

Despite using less water, the yield of cotten in the state has been “phenomenal,” Staples said.

The production of corn has grown from 30 bushels an acre 50 years ago to more than 100 bushels today. The meat produced per animal unit of beef cattle has doubled since the 1960s.

“If you don’t tell that story, no one will,” Staples said.

Staples said the state, since late 2010, has been in the second most-extensive drought in history, only exceeded by the one in the 1950s. The effects are magnified by the fact that we had a drought in 2005 and 2006 and another drought in 2008 and 2009, with only a few months of reprieve in between. If Texans in the late 50s and 60s hadn’t had the foresight to build reservoirs, the effects of the dry 2000s would be much greater.

“Texans then realized they needed to be bold. They needed to develop water resources and they did it,” Staples said. “And now the question is, ‘What will the Texans of 2013 do as we move forward?’”

Trinity Waters is an organization formed by landowners to protect the resource that provides water for 45 percent of the state’s population. The group continues to spread its conservation message in many venues, including a website, Facebook page, Twitter account and Scoop.it!, an online newspaper.